Helping a friend or loved one when they are struggling is often one of the most difficult things you can do. The biggest thing to remember is that you are not here to fix the problem. Take that pressure off of yourself. Your role right now is to ASK, LISTEN, GET HELP
Asking is often the hardest part of starting the conversation. It is normal to worry about what to say or how the conversation might go. Common fears might include: What if I say the wrong thing? What if they get mad at me? What if I don’t know how to fix the situation? What if they do really want to die?
- Be present and genuine
- Try to start in a comfortable, private setting with limited distractions
- Be specific on changes or behaviors you have noticed lately. This lets the individual know that you care and they are valued and cared for
- Use as many open ended questions as possible. This both encourages and allows the individual to talk freely
- Do not be afraid to ask the tough questions. There are no wrong questions and if there is anything makes you think of asking it is best to ask. This includes asking if they are thinking about suicide
- When asking about suicide, be direct. “Are you thinking about suicide?” “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
- Avoid asking in a way that indicates you’re hoping for a No. “You’re not thinking about killing yourself are you?”
Listening can be difficult, especially when someone is struggling. Our natural response is to give advice or try to fix the problem. However, as we said earlier, it is not your job to fix the problem. Our role now is to understand how the individual is feeling so we are able to connect them with help and supports.
- Listen to understand, not to respond
- Do not rush the conversation. Give them time to answer your questions fully
- Listen without arguing or making judgements about their situation. There is a high probability that the individual has not reached out because they are concerned with being negatively judged
- Once people have a chance to talk about their situation they are often able to think about solutions for themselves
It is important to understand that the help and supports often depend on the person and the situation. It can also take multiple supports to find what works.
- Go with them or advocate for them when possible
- Encourage them to talk to a professional or attend a support group
- Encourage them to think about 24/7 help lines and text services and help them make that call
- Follow up with the individual when possible, it builds a stronger relationship and increases accountability
- If the individual is in crisis call 911 or visit the closest emergency room. If possible, stay with them while in the waiting room